THE Department of Health and Human Services has done too little to address the imbalance between demand and supply for mental health services in Victoria, the Victorian Auditor-General's Office has found.
VAGO audited whether existing strategies would start to address issues surrounding access to treatment and support services - issues acknowledged by both the department and the broader sector - and found them lacking.
A 57-page report released today concluded the Victorian mental health system 'lags significantly behind other jurisdictions'.
It attributes its shortcomings to a lack of sufficient and appropriate system-level planning, investment and monitoring over many years.
VAGO called for urgent attention to the shortfall in beds, the 'significant' gap between health service costs and the price the department pays, and 'the long-standing issue' of inequity in funding and service provision based on where a patient is accessing services.
"DHHS cannot expect to meaningfully improve clinical care models or the mental health of the Victorian population while the system operates in crisis mode and waiting for the outcomes of the Royal Commission into Mental Health to act, will only increase the problems the commission seeks to address," it found.
Bendigo Health was one of six health services consulted as part of the audit, in addition to the department.
Its views were among those considered when VAGO was reaching its conclusions.
The report includes six recommendations for the department, all of which the department has accepted.
"Anything that improves access to services for people experiencing mental illness is beneficial," a Bendigo Health spokesperson said.
"Bendigo Health doubled the number of inpatient mental health beds, from 40 to 80, with the opening of the new hospital in 2017. This was in response to local demand for services."
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